Saturday, July 20, 2013

The heat is down, and Whac-A-Mole is on hold.

I have a confession to make:  I really don't like the summer.  I blame the desert.  Growing up in Arizona, one grows to dread the seven months of summer, April - October.  Now that I've fled to New Jersey, I get cranky when a seven day heat wave blankets half of the country, leaving us all collectively miserable.  Nonetheless, my spirits are high, not only because I'm listening to thunder usher in cooler temperatures.

The roller coaster of Cancer World took an unexpected turn last week.  As I headed out of town last Tuesday, in 100+ degree heat with 70+% humidity, I headed to the Baltimore airport to pick up Mary, who was flying in from Pittsburgh to be with me for one of an estimated three RFA procedures this summer.  I wasn't sure exactly which tumor Dr. Hong would go after, or even which lung would be invaded.  It didn't really matter because I knew that I had several tumors to Whac in this never ending game of Whac-A-Mole.

We arrived at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Wednesday at 7 a.m.  By 9:15 I was finally rolled into the OR and prepped for surgery.   Dr. Hong, ordered a CT to see just how things were looking and I waited to find out the plan.  He appeared out of nowhere and said, "I don't see anything to treat!"  Wondering if I was in an anesthetic stupor, I just stared.  "How is that possible?"  Dr. Hong said that several of the "hot" spots on the PET scan, only six weeks ago, have become smaller and some have disappeared.  He said that there are still two spots in my right lung that he's watching, but the other spots were probably either scarring or inflammation from prior ablations or radiation treatments.  He literally said the words, "Things look great!"  This, of course, doesn't mean "disease free," but I'll take it.  "Does this mean I can eat breakfast and go back to bed?"  We agreed that I should return in September for another set of scans.  I practically ran out of there and Mary and I celebrated over waffles.

We drove back to Karen's house, always Command Central for my Hopkins visits, packed up our bags, I dropped Mary at BWI where she took an early flight back to Pittsburgh, and I drove back home.  Whether it was the heat or relief/gratitude/shock, I've been sleeping 10-13 hours a night since I got back.

What about that tumor on my rib I mentioned in my last post?  A few weeks ago Dr. Hales called me and said that he decided I should only have one big radiation treatment to the rib instead of 4-5 smaller ones.  This would be less risky if I need to have more radiation in the future.  He had a last minute opening the next day, so on June 28th I did a same day round trip to Baltimore and got a blasting dose of radiation to kill the rib tumor.  Thankfully, there were no side effects. 

With a reprieve, however long it lasts, from the game of Whac-A-Mole, along with cooler temperatures, I guess I'm going to have to rethink my feelings about summer.  Also, my friend Jim is doing great after his stem cell transplant.  At the tender age of 70, he will soon reach his 100 day milestone and in Transplant World, that's a big deal.  He started Maplewoodstock 10 years ago, a two day music bash in Maplewood in the spirit of Woodstock.  Jim is an unstoppable bass player and I was so happy to see him at this year's celebration.  Plus, another friend who had a PET scan the same day as my non-ablation, received a clean bill of health -- another huge relief.  For those of us who live from PET scan to PET scan, or blood test to blood test, having a break in the action is everything.  It's like a cool rain after a heat wave.